Lately I've been issuing a caveat with every commitment I make: Sure, I'll come to the meeting, provided that my daughter doesn't go into labor on that day. Or sure, I'll observe your class, provided that my daughter doesn't go into labor on that day. I'm constantly looking ahead on my syllabi and trying to figure out which classes could be cancelled or moved online temporarily or which colleague could cover for me if I get called away.
The other day a colleague objected--"But isn't this your third grandchild?" As if to say, "What's the big deal? You've done this before." But this is the first time I've had a third grandchild, which is enough to make me pretty excited. I want to be there, just as I was there when the first two arrived on the scene. (And no, I don't need to be in the room where it happens, but nearby would be nice.)
Of course the first two had the foresight to be born during summer break, when I could drop everything and drive two hours north without much thought and then stay around as long as I could be helpful. Two years ago my husband and I enjoyed taking our granddaughter out kite-flying while her brother was easing his way into the world, and then we got to take her in to meet her new sibling, a priceless moment I wouldn't trade for anything.
This time, though, the baby is due in the middle of the semester, so I can't just leave at the drop of a hat. I have promised my students that I won't leave town for Spring Break until I've sent them comments on all their drafts, but mentally I added provided that my daughter isn't in labor. How can I pay attention to comma splices while my offspring is experiencing the joys and pains of childbirth?
I have done my part: I've encouraged my daughter to give birth this weekend so I'll be able to spend all of Spring Break helping out, and she said she'll do her best, but ultimately, we don't hold the reins in this situation. Babies arrive when they arrive, and if I happen to be in the middle of a class discussion on Allen Ginsberg when it happens, I'll just have to carry on and try not to howl.